The Cost of Spiritual Freedom
John 8:31-36 Princeton Christian Church 02 July 2023
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, who was an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the crowd around him: "My poor friends, you are free--free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... Liberty is your birthright."
However, Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit your freedom," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom!
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine. and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
These Jewish people made a great decision to believe in Jesus Christ; however, their very words following Jesus’ acknowledgement can be the very thing that halts spiritual growth and commitment. “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone…
Jesus replied in verse 34,
the person that practices sin is in-fact a slave to their actions.
They walk around with a ball and chain, they become puppets to a tiny substance or drink, abuse to others as well as to themselves, wrong thinking, low self-esteem practicing sin, any number of sins.
In Jesus’ day, when someone became deep into debt beyond his or her means of paying, one solution was to be placed in a time of slavery as payment for relief from the debt. You may have heard the term “debtors’ prison.” It apparently was somewhat like that. But sometimes the length of service could be the rest of one’s natural life if his debt was an exceptionally large amount.
The fact is, “If you continue to be a slave of sin, you’ll die as a slave to sin!”
But look again at how Jesus teaches about this slavery: John 8:31:
Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him.
“If you stay with Me, living in the way I tell you, you are truly my disciples.”
Our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is not the end. It doesn’t mean that we have arrived or have accomplished a great task. Belief is just the beginning. It is the birth. And, what happens in the time after we are born? Growth must follow birth.
That’s why Jesus said in John 15:1-6 NASB
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”
What will a fruit tree do? A fruit tree will do the only thing a fruit tree can do – it will bear fruit.
And what can a truly devoted disciple of Jesus Christ do? The only thing he can do. A truly devoted disciple of Jesus Christ bears fruit. As disciples of Christ, we cannot live by our emotions alone. We continue in prayer, we continue in our devotions, and in the teachings of Christ and in fellowship with one another.
Jesus said in John 8:32:
“....and you will know the truth (that is, the truth about salvation), and the truth will set you free?”
Free from what? Free from the penalty of sin.”
So, what does Jesus offer us? Jesus offers us. He offers us Freedom. He offers us rest, and peace, and joy and Spiritual release from judgement, and He offers us the free gift of eternal life.
Look at Romans 6:22:
“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” The Son has come to liberate sin-slaves from their old master, allowing sin-slaves to become “Slaves to God.”
According to scripture, “You’re either a slave to God, or a slave to sin!”
See again verse 32, “And you will know the truth…”
This word ‘know’ is an intimate form of knowledge.
Any other knowledge is just that~ knowledge. When a person does not have an intimate knowledge of the truth, it becomes Gnosticism. Gnosticism is defined as the thought and practice of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil, and that emancipation (freedom) comes through knowledge that is restricted to a small group of people.
A brief explanation of Gnosticism is taking truth and adding or subtracting from whole truth. Sometimes church goers fall into this. It happens when the knowledge of Christ is not an intimate, or heart knowledge, but a “head” knowledge.
In this passage – John 8 -we see knowledge lose its intimacy. John 8:33: The response to Jesus’ statement that the truth will make them free was this: “But we are descendants of Abraham. We’ve never been slaves to anyone. How can you say, ‘The truth will make us free?’”
They were hearing only the literal interpretation. They claimed racial superiority, cultural superiority, and moral superiority. Furthermore, they claimed to have never been enslaved to anyone. It sounds like they had already forgotten about the slavery of their people in Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, Syria, Rome.
Jesus was saying,
“I Am the truth, I Am, the Son of God, I AM the anointed One, I Am, the law fulfiller, and I Am soon to be, the crucified One, and through My crucifixion, I will set you free from anything and everything!”
What Jesus was about to accomplished is what the law could not do; nor Abraham, nor anyone or anything else could do.
Listen to Galatians 3:13-14 “Christ redeemed us from curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree - in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles,
so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
“Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.
Remember this, many in Jesus’ day believed if they said, “I’m going to trust Abraham,” they thought that was enough.
However what Jesus was actually saying is, “If you’re going to live as Abraham did and live even greater, you have to do what Abraham did, for He believed and trusted against all odds. He gained intimate knowledge of the truth~ He believed the truth!”
Again, look at John 8:34 Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave.”
Can a Christian backslide? Yes, of course they can. And they do. It happens when one leaves the truth about spiritual freedom. Spiritual freedom speaks through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. The message from the cross is Jesus telling us: “I Am Enough!” He is enough. He is all we need.
When a believer allows any other so-called truths or lies to enter in, their true course becomes muddy and distorted!
Any drug addict who has been “clean and sober” for a number of years will say the same: After they came to terms with the truth of their carvings, and the truth about the origins and influences of their cravings, and the truth of their personal responsibilities, they found freedom. In fact, any repentant sinner will affirm the power of the truth to liberate us; to set us free.
John 8:35: “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.” A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. But he is at the will of his master. He can be bought and sold at the will of the slave owner. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house; he belongs to the family.
Today, are you free? Do you live in the freedom that Jesus Christ offers?
John 8:36 "So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed."
There are two truths to remember.
As true members of God’s family, we should expect to be persecuted by our half-brothers. – Those “religious” people who claim to be part of God's family but remain as slaves to sin.
We must recognize the absolute invalid nature of man-made religion, which keeps those believers in slavery, but recognize God's provision as the way out of slavery into the freedom that only Jesus Christ can provide.